Published on: June 14, 2022 at 17:40 IST
Following a storm of sharp criticism from Western officials and activists over her handling of alleged rights violations in China, the UN’s chief human-rights advocate announced she will not seek a second term.
Michelle Bachelet, speaking to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, said the council’s current session, would be her final briefing as U.N. High Commissioner for human rights, a position she will leave at the end of August after a four-year term.
Ms. Bachelet, 70, cited personal reasons for not seeking a second term, telling reporters that her decision had nothing to do with the criticism she had received. She had made her decision before travelling to China and had told U.N. Secretary General António Guterres of it
“Can’t you imagine that having been president twice, I have received a lot of criticism in my life?” Ms. Bachelet said. “So that’s not what makes me do certain decisions.”
Since her appointment as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2018, Ms. Bachelet has led a years’ long campaign by the UN Human Rights Office to examine claims of widespread human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region. The Communist Party has launched a massive drive to forcibly assimilate ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the country.
China’s treatment of Uyghurs has been described as genocide by certain Western officials and a group of lawyers, academics, and activists. Beijing has denied any human rights violations in Xinjiang, calling the genocide charge “the lie of the century.”
Ms. Bachelet has been accused of being too deferential to China, particularly during her recent visit to the country.
Ms. Bachelet gave a brief overview of her China trip in her Monday remarks, saying she addressed concerns with Beijing about the human-rights situation in Xinjiang, including “broad arbitrary detention and patterns of abuse” faced by Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Union’s top trade and economic official, told European lawmakers, “We find it quite disappointing that the Chinese authorities did not grant full and unrestricted access to High Commissioner Bachelet.”
The European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution the next day condemning China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and expressing disappointment.